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bih le had always dreamed i Ironman triathlon, and ts in Kona, Hawaii, at the World Championship. She had completed a little more than half of the 112-mile cycling portion, which took her from a lush green neighborhood of downtown Kona up a hill to brutally hot blackrock lava fields. Fierce winds were blowing cyclists sideways on their bikes, and Zahlcr, unable to let go of her handlebars for fear of toppling over, had gone the whole distance without solid food. She was achingly hungry, irritable, and exhausted. She couldn't remember why she had signed up for this torture and thought about giving up. But then she turned her focus inward, deepened her breath, and felt a sense of calm come over her. She directed asana for >

by Sage Rountree>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

athletes

If you run, cycle, or swim, practice this sequence three or more times a week after your easier workouts. Beqin with Adho Mukha Svanasaria (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) and stay for a few breaths, turning your focus inward. Notice your energy level, and register any areas of tightness or openness in your body. Just as you begin a training session with a sense of purpose, take a moment to set an intention for your practice.

tend to have overworked hip flexors and quadriceps and underworked glutes. Rountree teaches lunges as a way for runners to release the hip flexors in their back legs while stretching and strengthening the hamstrings of their front legs. And because the shape of a lunge mimics the runner's stride, she says, it is a good way for runners to examine their alignment and balance.

>>>>>>INNER STRENGTH>>>>>BREATH

attention to the areas of her body where she was holding tension and released them. Finally, she arrived on flat ground and was able to free up one hand to eat. Instead of dwelling on the frustration of the previous 70 miles, she found she was able to be in the present moment and let the past go. In short, she tapped into everything she'd learned through her yoga practice, and she finished the race in good time and with a feeling of ease.

I ler stun,- is inspiring, but not unusual, Zahler, who is also a yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon, is part of a growing number of endurance athletes—marathon runners, cyclists, and triath-letes—who have found that the physical and mental practices of yogacan help them prevent injuries, improve their performance, and bring a whole new dimension of awareness and joy to the sports they love.

putting the BODY AT EASE

One of the things many athletes love about sports like running, cycling, and swimming is that rhythmic, repetitive motion over long distances can be deeply meditative. But the downside of this action from a physical point of view is that the continuous cycles of repetitive motion tax one set of muscles while under-utilizing the rest. Over time and distance, this creates muscular imbalances that can lead to misalignment and injur}* "Ifyou have even a minor misalignment in your stride, when you repeat that action over and over, it can cause injury" says Sage Rountree, a yoga teacher and triathlon coach in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the author of The Athlete's Guide to Toga. Runners, she says,

According to cyclist and Stanford University exercise physiologist Stacy Sims, cyclists develop similar kinds of imbalances. Because they arc constantly in a crouched position on the bike, their quads and gluteus muscles tend to be strong, but their hip flexors are tight and weak, she says, "Yoga opens the hips up and strengthens the surrounding muscles, which can prevent injury"

In addition to the stresses of repetitive motion, there's also the matter of holding the body in one position for a long time, whether it's crouched down over a bike or in a running stride. The body becomes contracted, with the shoulders and the back rounding forward. Most of us already have a somewhat forward-leaning posture, simply from daily-life activities like sitting at a desk. Assuming a similar position while running or cycling exacerbates the contraction and can lead to back pain and postural issues. Poses like Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) that open the front body, including the hip flexors, can counteract this (seepage 69).

And to strengthen the core muscles needed to support the posture during training, Rountree o

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